Earlier this year we conducted an extensive survey of alumni, made up mostly of scale statements but including a few free-text comment fields as well. Respondents typed in nearly 80,000 words in comments – that’s slightly longer than the first Harry Potter book!
Somebody has to read all this stuff (not me!). But what can we do with it in the meantime?
Why not play with it in Wordle?
According to the web site (www.wordle.net), Wordle is “a toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like.”
Here is a word cloud for the free-text comments made in response to the question, “Do you have any other comments about your academic experience?”
You can also enter the URL of any blog or feed into Wordle, and it will generate a word cloud from that. Here’s what a Wordle of this blog looks like (so far).
Useful or just a toy? I did use some of these word clouds in a presentation of the alumni survey results, and the response told me it was worth it. It’s a cool thing, and people like cool things. I also see Wordle creations in newspapers – I think the first example I ever saw was a comparison of campaign speeches made by Barack Obama and John McCain.
What do you use word clouds for?